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Bacalhau – powering GayPortugal for 500 years

Love it or love it… there is no way you’ll escape Bacalhau in Portugal (yes, even if you go vegan, you can still get Bacalhau à Bras – in vegan form!). Agreed, the dried stuff you find in supermarkets and shops is probably not the most appealing in the unprepared form… it is a little smelly, hard and just not exactly great to look at. However, once gently brought back to life… things are different. It come to life in so many forms that it is virtually impossible not to love one, two or all of them. But even better than a nicely prepared bacalhau, it is a thoroughly healthy ingredient, too. Bacalhau is high on B-vitamins (especially B-6 and B12), niacin, omega-3 fatty acids… and protein. Quite a power pack!

To prepare it, you first need to water it for 24-36 hours. Change the water a few times during this time – and don’t smell the water (yes, I made a friend smell it … and she was very skeptical about what on earth I was trying to feed her. Bad start!). Once, it is de-salted you can use it in many different ways – essentially like fresh fish, just with a bit more taste.

Over Christmas, I made Bacalhau Com Natas for some friends, which is essentially bacalhau cooked in cream. I actually exchanged the cream for simple milk – and the result was much “lighter” and equally nice. This is a fairly simple recipe to follow if you want to try it. Remember, you don’t really need to go overboard with the cream if you are trying to recover from the Christmas period!

If you prefer your Bacalhau a little more “mediterranean” (with olive oil and olives), give Bacalhau à Bras a try… A simple and delicious recipe is this one. One trick with it: rather than spending lots of time cutting potatoes into little matchsticks and frying them, if you are in Portugal, buy “Batata Frita Palha”, ready-made fried matchstick potatoes. If you can’t get them and you still want to save yourself the trouble of over-chopping, simply use matchstick crisps (ready salted) or similar. The effect will be pretty much the same.

Other recipes to try: Nelson Carvalheiro’s Bacalhau, Croquettes from Bacalhau, … and a bunch more.

Bom apetite!